Fid-19 ta’ Diċembru 1970 saret l-inawgurazzjoni uffiċjali tal-Għaqda Kittieba Sports bl-ewwel Kumitat Eżekuttiv ikun magħmul minn Fr.Hilary Tagliaferro (President), Lewis Portelli (vici-President), Joe Cutajar (Segretarju Ġenerali), Mario Meli (Assistant Segretarju Ġenerali), Antonio Castagna (Teżorier) u Tommy Farrell (Membru). Mill-ewwel beda x-xogħol biex l-Għaqda Kittieba Sports l-istess bħalma jsir fi ħdan l-għaqdiet tal-ġurnalisti affiljati mal-Association Internationale de la Presse Sportive (AIPS) tibda hi wkoll torganizza l-Għażliet Sportivi Nazzjonali ta’ pajjiżna. Ftit ġimgħat wara ġie ppreżentat uffiċjalment it-trofew artistiku tal-Isportiv tas-Sena xogħol tal-artist Malti Kav.Emvin Cremona.
Waqt serata ta’ votazzjoni mxandra fuq l-istazzjon tal-istat MTV fit-8 ta’Jannar 1971 il-ġurnalisti membri għazlu bħala l-ewwel rebbieħ ta’ dan it-trofew lil John Ripard (Royal Malta Yacht Club) frisk mis-suċċess li kien kiseb fil-MiddleSea Race bil-yacht ‘Tikka’.
Sal-1971 l-Għażliet Sportivi Nazzjonali kienu diġa’ qed ikunu organizzati mill-ġurnalist BENNY PACE illi fl-1960 permezz tal-ġurnal tiegħu The Sporting Star kien welled u ħareġ b’din l-idea unika għal pajjiżna li baqgħet tkun żviluppata u li bir-raġun hija meqjusa mill-atleti u uffiċjali bħala il-qofol fil-karriera ta’ kull wieħed u waħda minnhom. L-ewwel rebbieħ tal-iSportivi Tas-Sena kien Wilfred Pirotta , ċampjin Malti tas-Sajd taħt wiċċ il-baħar illi apparti suċċessi internazzjonali l-aktar fil-Kampjonati tad-Dinja fl-1959 fejn kien spiċċa fid-9 posizzjoni, baqa’ sinonimu ma’ dan l-isport f’pajjiżna.
Benny Pace kompla jiżviluppa L-Isportivi tas-Sena bl-ewwel rebbieħa bħala Sportiva tas-Sena tkun Joan Galea Naudi fl-1964.
L-Għaqda Kittieba Sports organizzat l-edizzjonijiet 1970, 1971 u 1972 ta’ dawn l-Għażliet u fl-istess waqt Benny Pace baqa’ jorganizza l-għażliet tiegħu. Wara li Benny Pace u l-GħKS kellhom anki kawża l-Qorti, kien intlaħaq ftehim amikevoli u mill-edizzjoni tal-1973 beda’ jkun hemm għażla u rebbieħ wieħed. Fl-aħħar edizzjoni organizzata minn Benny Pace u Sport Publications ingħata bidu għall-kategorija tal-Uffiċjal tas-Sena bl-ewwel rebbieħ ikun Bertie Muscat.
Mill-1980 il-Kumitat Organizattiv li kien ikun magħmul minn tliet membri tal-Għ.K.S, tliet membri tal-Kumitat Olimpiku Malti u ċermen newtrali bdew jieħdu ħsieb l-organizazzjoni bl-Għaqda Kittieba Sports tibqa’ l-qofol tal-organizazzjoni u responsabbli mis-sistema tal-votazzjoni.
Mis-sena 2000 bi ftehim mal-Kumitat Olimpiku Malti, l-Għazliet Sportivi Nazzjonali bdew mill-ġdid ikunu organizzati mill-Għaqda Kittieba Sports waħidha.
Mill-Edizzjoni tal-2004 l-Għaqda Kittieba Sports bdiet tippremja wkoll lil dak il-ġurnalist veteran illi matul il-karriera għen mhux biss għall-iżvilupp tal-ġurnaliżmu sportiv iżda wkoll kien ta’ kontribut fl-iżvilupp tal-isport Malti. Dawk kollha illi ngħataw rikonoxximent u eventwalment jagħmlu parti mill-Hall of Fame tal-Għaqda Ġurnalisti Sports huma:
2004 Charles Fava +
2005 Lewis Portelli +
2006 Benny Pace +
2007 Mario Meli
2008 Henry Calleja +
2009 Simon Bonello +
2010 Fr.Hilary Tagliaferro
2012 Alfred Camilleri
2013 Wilfred Sultana
2014 Manwel Scerri
L-Edizzjonijiet tal-2009 u tal-2010 ġew organizzati flimkien mal-Kunsill Malti għall-Isport illi mill-2002 dejjem kien ta l-appoġġ u għajununa finanzjarja biex dawn l-Għażliet setgħu jibqgħu jkunu organizzati.
Wara l-Laqgħa Ġenerali Annwali tal-Għaqda Kittieba Sports li saret fl-1 ta’ Diċembru 2009, kien ġie deċiż illi mill-1 ta’ Frar 2010 jinbidel l-isem tal-Għ.K.S u jsir Għaqda Ġurnalisti Sports. Mill-edizzjoniji 2010 issa saru magħrufa bħala Sport Malta Awards – Għażliet Sportivi Nazzjonali.
Fl-Edizzjoni 2013 mill-ġdid l-GħĠS kienet saret responsabbli waħidha għall-organizazzjoni ta’ dawn l-Għażliet, madankollu bi ftehim ma’ SportMalta mill-edizzjoni 2014 l-Għażliet saru magħrufa bħala ‘Sport Malta Awards – Għażliet Sportivi Nazzjonali’ – organizzati minn Kumitat Organizattiv maħtur apposta.
Mill-edizzjoni tal-2024 l-Għażliet Sportivi Nazzjonali se jkunu organizzati mill-Għaqda Ġurnalisti Sports bil-għajnuna tal-Ministeru għall-Edukazzjoni, Sport, Żgħażagħ, Riċerka u Innovazzjoni.
The Sports Writers’ Association was inaugurated on October 19, 1970, with its first executive committee composed of President Fr Hilary Tagliaferro, Vice President Lewis Portelli, General Secretary Joe Cutajar, Assistant General Secretary Mario Meli, Treasurer Antonio Castagna and Member Tommy Farrell. Like other national sports journalists’ associations affiliated with the Association Internationale de la Presse Sportive (AIPS), the Sports Writers Association started the preparations for the National Sports Awards for our country. In a matter of weeks, the artistic trophy for the Sportsman of the Year, done by the Maltese artist Chev. Emvin Cremona, was officially presented.
During a voting session aired on the national television station MTV on January 8, 1971, sports journalists, members of the Sports Writers Association chose the first winner as John Ripard from the Royal Malta Yacht Club, who had just won the Middlesea Race with his yacht Tikka.
Prior to 1971, the Awards had been organised by sports journalist Benny Pace through his newspaper The Sporting Star since 1960, who pioneered this innovative and unique concept for our country, which is still evolving and is rightly regarded as the pinnacle of athletes’ and officials’ sporting careers. The first Sportsman of the Year was Wilfred Pirotta, a Maltese spearfishing champion who also placed 9th in the 1959 World Championships and remained well renowned for this sport in our country.
Benny Pace continued to develop these awards by introducing the first Sportswoman of the Year, won by Joan Galea Naudi in 1964. Galea Naudi was a versatile athlete who specialised in water sports.
The Sports Writers Association organised the awards editions for the years 1970, 1971 and 1972, while Benny Pace continued to organise his awards ceremony. Benny Pace and the Sports Writers Association also had a court case that ended with a cordial agreement to have only one awards ceremony as of the 1973 edition, which was the one organised by the association. In the last edition organised by Benny Pace and Sport Publications, the Sports Official of the Year was introduced, and the first winner was Bertie Muscat.
As of 1980, an organisational committee made up of three (3) members from the Sports Writers Association, three (3) members from the Maltese Olympic Committee, and a neutral chairperson was set up to organise these awards. The Sports Writers Association maintained its primary organisational function by organising the voting system.
As of the year 2000 there was a mutual agreement with the Maltese Olympic Committee that these awards were to be organized solely by the Sports Writers Association once again.
The 2009 and 2010 editions were organised in collaboration with the Malta Sports Council, which has always supported the continuation of such an event financially since 2002.
During the Malta Sports Writers Association’s Annual General Meeting held on October 1, 2009, it was decided that as of February 1, 2010, the association would change its name to Malta Sports Journalists Association. As of 2010, these annual awards were named Sport Malta Awards – Għażliet Sportivi Nazzjonali.
The Malta Sports Journalists Association once again organised these awards on its own for the 2013 edition. For the following year, there was an agreement that as of 2014, these awards would be organised by an organisational committee.
As from the 2024 edition these awards will be again organised solely by the Malta Sports Journalists Association with the support of the Ministry for Education, Sport, Youth, Research and Innovation.
BENNY PACE – ‘THE SPORTING STAR’ AND ‘SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR AWARD’
by Charles Camenzuli
The man behind sports journalism and sports administration in Malta.
The mastermind behind the annual sports awards ‘Sportiv tas-Sena’ – Sportsman of the Year.
Pace passed away on Wednesday 24th February 2010 but his legacy lives on.
Whenever Benny Pace mentioned ‘Sportiv tas-Sena’ his eyes glared enthusiastically, especially when he reminisced about a country where sport during the post-War era was still developing. No recognition to athletes and officials had been given in our small world of sport.
The ‘Sportiv tas-Sena’ award materialized when Benny Pace, as editor and publisher of the modest 3 pence 4-page sport newspaper ‘The Sporting Star’, gave coverage to local sport activities. It was the ideal platform for readers to choose who deserved to be honoured as ‘The Sportsman of the Year ‘ – ‘L-Isportiv tas-Sena’.
‘The Sporting Star’ readers had the privilege to choose and give their preferences by means of a coupon published in the newspaper and to send it by post. This led to a drastic increase in sales and as Benny Pace always pointed out with half a smile: ‘…..sales increased as definitely athletes contesting the awards bought as much as possible copies of the newspaper to fill in their names in order to get the best amount of nr.1 preferences’.
Benny Pace was aware that similar contests around Europe were held differently, either chosen by specialized panel of sport personalities, or chosen by the respective national Olympic Committee and through voting by sports journalists.
As editor of ‘The Sporting Star’ he tried to combine these ideas in the sense that reporters and sport contributors for the newspaper nominated candidates, and readers casted their preferences. His aim was also to be in line with the European media, as in England ‘News of the World’ had sponsored the Athletics Championships, ‘Daily Mirror’ partnered with the Gran Prix, L’Equipe in France and ‘La Gazetta dello Sport’ in Italy organized the main cycling competitions respectively – Tour de France and Giro d’Italia while ‘France Football’ had already organized the first editions of ‘The Golden Ball’.
With this in mind ‘The Sporting Star’ started to organize ‘The Sportsman of the Year’.
At the same time Benny Pace who was ahead of any other sport official when it came to sport administration at national level, he was also the Founding Member of the Malta Basketball Association, the Malta Boxing Association and the Malta Darts Association besides the organization of the Sports Festival where cycling races were introduced.
One has to keep in mind the challenges sport in Malta had to face between the end of the 1950’s and the pre-independence era where sponsoring a sport event was never heard of and financial backing of sport activities was rather difficult.
However, in view of these difficulties Benny Pace recalls that: ‘……. following a meeting with Charles Camilleri, advertising representative of C.A.P.A Agency a meeting with Mr. Paul Smith – General Manager for the cigarette manufacturing company Carreras Malta Ltd. was scheduled. The meeting with Mr. Smith was rather positive in the sense that Carreras Malta Ltd. agreed to pay all expenses incurred to buy the Shield for the winner of the newly set ‘Sportsman of the Year’.’
The first Organizing Committee was set with Benny Pace as Chairman, delegate from Carreras as main sponsors and representatives of National Associations. For the first edition 2699 voting coupons were received.
The finalists for the 1960 Sportsman of the Year Award were:
Wilfred Pirotta, who had obtained great results as the World Championship of Underwater Fishing.
Wilfred Asciak, billiards player who by 1960 had won ten consecutive national titles.
Wilfred Attard, national champion of chess for the fourth consecutive time.
Wenzu Vella, clay-shooter who had represented Malta at the Olympic Games in Rome.
Following the adding of votes of the first ever ‘Sportsman of the Year Award’
- Wilfred Pirotta got 1103 votes;
- Wenzu Vella 865 votes;
- Wilfred Asciak 424 votes and
- Wilfred Attard 307 votes.
The official presentation of the ‘Carreras Shield’ was held at the Anglo Maltese Club in Merchants Street Valletta with Governor General Admiral Sir Guy Grantham presenting the shield to Wilfred Pirotta as winner of the first ever edition of the Athlete of the Year Award.
On announcing Pirotta as winner, Benny Pace went a step further when he announced that young athlete with special needs Angela Scicluna was chosen as ‘The Promising Athlete for 1960’ as a result of the medals won at the Paraplegic Games in Stoke Mandeville.
(c) Charles Camenzuli 20/2/18